This surname BURNSTEIN is of the locational group of surnames, which was originally derived from the Old German word 'BERNSTEIN' meaning amber from Middle German 'bernen' to burn , plus 'sten' stone; i.e. it was thought to be created by burning, although it is in fact fossilized pine resin. There are places of this name in Bavaria and another in what used to be East Prussia (which is now the town of Petczyce in the north-west of Poland). The name was also occasionally used as an occupational name meaning 'one who burnt-stone' for use in building. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. The name is mainly of Jewish origin. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years. The adopting of surnames began in the Middle Ages, but until the 19th century they were neither fixed nor universal, and in many cases were taken from the occupation or location of their ancestors. This surname has numerous variant spellings and an eminent member of the name was Eduard Bernstein (1850-1932). He was the German socialist leader, born in Berlin. He lived in England from 1888 until 1901. He was an advocate of revisionism, an evolutionary parliamentary form of Marxism. He wrote 'My Years of Exile' which was published in 1921.
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